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Researchers have discovered remnants of rust on the Moon and said that Earth may be responsible.
In a study published in the journal Science Advances, the researchers found that the composition of the Moon’s poles is different from that of its other areas. Upon inspection of the poles, lead author Shuai Li found traces of the mineral hematite, commonly known as rust, on iron-rich lunar rocks. He found the discovery puzzling because the Moon lacks oxygen and water, which are needed to form rust. To confirm his findings, Li contacted scientists from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).
After reaching out to JPL scientists, the researchers hypothesized that rust on the Moon forms when oxygen from the Earth’s upper atmosphere is blown to the lunar surface by solar wind. According to Li, this explains why more hematite is present on the side of the moon that faces the Earth.
Another speculation is that small quantities of water within the Moon’s craters might have helped in the formation of rust. When dust particles hit the Moon, water molecules are released and mixed with iron on the lunar surface, creating a rust-inducing chemical reaction.
According to Vivian Sun, one of the researchers, the findings suggest that more complicated chemical processes are taking place in the solar system than previously known. She said that sending future missions to the Moon can help scientists understand some of the processes better.